Should A Missing Tooth Be Replaced?
Why leaving a gap in your teeth isn’t a good idea and how it can be treated by our Ipswich dentists
Nearly all of us will lose at least one tooth in our lifetime, whether from decay or through an accident. Depending on where the tooth was situated, we may choose to leave the gap instead of having a tooth replacement procedure. Although few of us will want to live with a gap in our front teeth for obvious reasons, less concern is often paid when the missing tooth is towards the rear of the mouth and therefore less visible.
From a layman’s point of view, this makes sense. After all, you can use your other teeth to bite and chew your food and no one (apart from your dentist) will see the gap so why bother undergoing treatment to replace it? Well, there are some very good reasons.
Let us start with the most obvious reason. If a gap caused by a missing tooth is visible when we smile, it isn’t a good look and very few of us are going to accept that. Even a few missing teeth that are less visible though can have an impact upon your appearance. One of the roles that your teeth play is to support the cheeks. If teeth are missing at the side/rear of the mouth, this can cause the cheek in that area to appear sunken. Similarly, when a tooth is lost, bone mass in that area is reduced and can cause small but sometimes noticeable facial shape changes.
Many teeth replacement procedures at the Foxhall Dental Practice are carried out to restore the appearance of a person’s smile and general facial expression, but there are some very good reasons to replace any missing teeth, wherever they are located in the mouth.
A missing tooth towards the rear of our mouths may not be visible but it can have an impact on your other teeth. Some of these may even eventually affect your smile too. One example of this is that when a tooth is lost; as we mentioned before, the bone in the jaw that would previously have supported that tooth no longer has a role to play. Accordingly, our bodies recognise that fact and the minerals that make up the bone in that area will be used elsewhere in the body.
Aside from the ‘sunken cheeks syndrome’ that we mentioned earlier, the lack of bone and an available gap means that the teeth on either side of the space are likely to shift and start to encroach into that area. This may happen slowly but the end result is still the same. Of course, when those teeth move, they in turn also leave gaps for other teeth to move into. This gradual domino effect can affect all of your teeth and eventually leave you with a crooked smile that requires orthodontic treatment to correct it.
Another issue is that when a tooth is lost, we quite naturally use other teeth to perform its role. This can have a damaging effect on that tooth over time. For example, our very rear teeth are the ones designed to grind and chew our food and this puts a lot of strain on them and is one of the reasons why these teeth are one of the most likely to need filling. If that tooth is lost and we use the teeth in front of it, although it might seem effective at least initially, these teeth are less-well designed for that role and the extra strain on them can cause premature wearing and even breakage.
In our opinion you really shouldn’t leave a gap in your teeth caused by a missing tooth, so what are the options available for our Ipswich patients?
For years dentures have been the standard method used to replace missing teeth. There is little doubt that there have been some great improvements in design and some now also allow a degree of flexibility which allows them to move with the shape of your face when you eat or speak. Despite this though, they are not without their drawbacks. Some patients find that they move around a little in their mouths and this can cause issues such as sore and irritated gums and may even affect your speech a little.
In addition to the above, dentures, like bridges below, replace only the crown part of the tooth and not the root. We will discuss the importance of this shortly.
A bridge does offer more stability than dentures and makes things like eating easier than with dentures. Like dentures though, they do require some intricate cleaning, especially beneath the bridge where food can become trapped. The main deterrent for most patients is that a bridge is secured by attaching a crown to the teeth on either side. As this requires them to be shaped, it is not surprising that a lot of people are reluctant to do this to teeth that are otherwise healthy. Like dentures, this method only replaced the crown and not the root part of a tooth.
Unlike the previous two teeth replacement methods, dental implants also offer a replacement for the missing tooth root in the shape of a titanium rod. This is tapped or screwed into position in place of the root and is then left for a period of time for osseointegration to occur (where the bone and implant essentially ‘fuse’ together). This provides a very secure root for a crown to be attached to. It is this artificial rooth which gives the dental implant a strength and security that neither of the other two options can match. Teeth implants are also straightforward to keep clean and you simply brush and floss them as you should your natural teeth. They are also long lasting and, with good care, can be expected to last for twenty years, and very often, many more.
If you have a missing tooth or teeth and would like to discuss your options with us, we are always happy to arrange an initial consultation with you. You can book yours by calling the Foxhall Dental Practice on 01473 258396.